By Nikki Fisher
ACLU of Florida Field Coordinator
40 years ago today, the Supreme Court upheld the historic decision in Roe v. Wade which recognized that a woman has the right to decide for herself whether or not to have an abortion. My generation often forgets about the important struggle that many men and women underwent to ensure these protections remain a right for all women. But because of a new assault on women’s reproductive freedom, we’re starting to understand how important these rights are and that the fight isn’t over.
As Jennifer Dalven points out on the ACLU’s National Blog of Rights attacks on the right to choose have skyrocketed in recent years, reaching record levels. Politicians in the House have tried to change the definition of rape and some states have passed laws mandating a women undergo an ultrasound and be forced to see images before making the difficult private decision on whether to have an abortion. In Florida, we’ve seen something similar to what is occurring in states all across the country: a state legislature continuing their assault on the historical rights underlined in Roe.
But across the nation, both men and women have had enough and have told their lawmakers to stop interfering in their personal and private decisions. Despite these clear signs from the American public, some politicians haven’t heard the message. We will need to keep up the momentum of the past year and continue to make our voices heard if we are to protect the right of a woman and her family to make their own decisions. And we should celebrate our victories.
This November, we stopped Tallahassee politicians from their excessive power grab into medical decisions between women and their doctors and defeated Amendment 6 on November’s ballot, which would have exempted women’s reproductive freedom from the Florida constitution’s guarantee of privacy. With the help of ACLU supporters across the state, we were able to stop this assault on reproductive freedom, and we once again told politicians to trust women with their own medical decisions.
Another victory for women’s rights is the passage of the Shaheen Amendment. ACLU of Florida President Col. Mike Pheneger worked to lobby for passage of this important change that corrected an injustice faced by our military women.
Numerous politicians who had an extreme view on abortion and birth control were rejected at the polls, and voters in Mississippi rejected a “fetal personhood” amendment that was so extreme many anti-abortion advocates refused to support it. Despite these clear signs from the American public and voters, some politicians still aren’t getting the message.
As my generation celebrates the victories this past year, we have to join forces with the old guard and continue to preserve Roe at the state level and at the federal level. Working with partner organizations, the ACLU of Florida will fight for women in the courts, in the state legislatures, and in Congress. And we ask that you join us in our battle to protect women’s rights. Please join us email network, like us on Facebook, become a member, and tell others about our history.
Roe v. Wade may be 40 years old, but the fight over a woman’s right to make her own decisions about her body and her family is far from over. If we stand together, we can defend the protections of Roe v. Wade for the next 40 years and beyond.
By Daniel Tilley
ACLU of Florida LGBT Advocacy
This week witnessed two steps forward in the movement for LGBT equality in Florida. First, courageous students at Booker T. Washington High School in Pensacola successfully established a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), the first of its kind in the Escambia County School District.
When students tried to form the club last fall, the school denied their application. The ACLU of Florida intervened, and within days, the school reversed course. Now that the school has brought itself into compliance with federal law, the GSA – which is made up of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students, along with straight allies – can work to end bullying, harassment, and discrimination against LGBT students and others.
As the school’s initial resistance to the club shows, this discrimination all too often comes not only from peers but from the very adults who are charged with protecting Florida’s students. The ACLU of Florida applauds the work of these brave students at Booker T. Washington High School.
In a second recent victory, the Board of County Commissioners for Pinellas County voted 6-1 to approve the creation of a domestic-partnership registry (DPR) in Pinellas County, a county with more than 900,000 residents. Through a DPR, same-sex couples can get access to important protections that would otherwise be denied to them, including access to domestic-partner health-insurance coverage and other benefits through a participating employer plan, visitation rights in medical facilities, emergency notification, and rights to certain medical decision-making.
Although the bundle of benefits is small, these benefits are among the most important a couple can have. The ACLU of Florida and other coalition partners, such as Equality Florida, played a substantial role in this effort. Notably, this victory comes on the heels of eight other DPR victories in Florida, and the ACLU of Florida continues to work successfully with coalition partners and provide technical assistance and support to pass such registries.
The ACLU of Florida has just issued a report entitled, “Protecting the Rights of Floridians in the Rick Scott Era: A Two-Year Report on Combatting Assaults by the Legislature and the Administration of Gov. Rick Scott on Civil Liberties,” which illustrates the work the ACLU and other organizations have undertaken to defend civil rights in Florida over the last two years.
“In order to defend the rights of Floridians from their own state government, the ACLU of Florida was involved in nine lawsuits challenging Gov. Scott’s policies and legislative attacks on civil liberties[.]”
Among the issues listed in the report were:
- the right to vote,
- the right to be free from unreasonable searches,
- religious freedom and the separation of church and state,
- women’s rights and reproductive freedom,
- an independent judiciary, and
- freedom of speech.
The report was released at the halfway point of Governor Rick Scott’s term and before the new session of the Florida legislature gets under way.
“With the 2012 elections behind us and the 2014 gubernatorial election already effectively begun, it appears that the Governor is attempting to moderate his views to make them palatable,” said ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon.
“But no public relations campaign can paper over the picture described in our report,” continued Simon, “that for the last two years, whether it has been the right to vote, freedom from unreasonable searches by government officials, women’s rights, the protection of personal privacy, religious freedom or freedom of speech, the ACLU has had to protect Floridians from a wide-ranging assault on their rights by their own Legislature and Governor.”
Download the report. (PDF)